WASHINGTON (TIP): A young white gunman opened fire in a historically black church in South Carolina on June 17 night killing nine African-Americans in what was said to be hate crime, one of the worst in US history. The gunman, still at large at the time of writing, reportedly spared one woman so that she could ”go and tell the world what happened.”
It was little after 9pm on June 17 when the group of African-Americans congregated at the 150-year-old Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church for their weekly Bible studies. The gunman, who was described as wearing a gray hoodie, blue jeans, and Timberland boots, is said to have come into the church and sat down with the group before opening fire and fleeing.
Police teams with sniffer dogs arrived quickly on the scene and cordoned off the area before putting the whole city, which witnessed massive protests following a white cop-killing-a black man case some weeks ago, into a lockdown.
There are concerns about further violence from the fugitive gunman and possible retaliatory attacks in a state that has a deep history of racism, but yet has successfully elected an Indian-American, Nikki Haley (nee Nimrata Randhawa) as the governor. Haley condoled the tragedy, saying, ”Michael, Rena, Nalin, and I are praying for victims and families touched by tonight’s senseless tragedy” and adding, ”While we do not yet know all of the details, we do know that we’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another.”
But city authorities appeared certain it is a hate crime.
”I do believe this is a hate crime,” Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said at a news conference, without explaining the basis for his conclusion. ”This is a tragedy that no community should have to experience. It is senseless, unfathomable…we are going to do everything in our power to find this individual, to lock him up, to make sure he does not hurt anyone else…”
Mayor Joe Riley, who like Mullen is also white in a city that is 25% African-American, backed him, saying, ”The only reason someone could walk into a church and shoot people praying is out of hate. It is the most dastardly act that one could possibly imagine.”
The shooting came just days ahead of two big back-to-back political rallies in the city, first by Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush (which has now been cancelled) and followed by one by Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton, who tweeted her condolences but did not say anything about the rally.
Police initially apprehended a young white photographer who happened to be in the vicinity because he matched the description of the gunman. But he only happened to be interviewing strangers for a project he was detailing on Facebook.